BUDYONG: My Daily Race: A Preview of a senator’s book

MARIKINA CITY (MindaNews/12 September) – The book, My Daily Race, is a good read.

It is incredibly interesting.

For it tells the real life story of how a woman can be a loving mom to her kids, a triathlon and ‘ironman’ competitor both here and abroad, and, a nationally elected legislator all at the same time.

How is that possible? How can anyone, especially a woman in a supposedly man’s world, really succeed in simultaneously pursuing all those ‘careers’ that individually demands full time attention?

Believe it or not, the author, Senator Pia Cayetano, dares to tell how she did it.

Faith in the Almighty. Belief in one’s self. Discipline as a way of life. And love for others.

In sum, these were the virtues – which the author appears to have internalized and externalized – that propelled her to the heights of the triple ventures she has dared to go into.

On the personal level, I must say that I did not really know the author well before she became a member of the Senate. I knew from Rene Cayetano, who was a colleague of mine in the Senate, that she was his daughter.

Later, I heard of her courage as a mom when her only son, Gabriel – an infant – for whom she had many earthly hopes for his future – passed away. Laconically, she said, that what she had in mind for Gabriel was “not in God’s plan. And so, I had to accept it.”

I also learned from second hand sources, mainly media, of her swimming, biking and hiking prowess. The media reports made me think of her as an Artemis reincarnate who the Greeks of old believed could run down a deer and outrace other gods.

But it was when she was elected as a Senator in the 2004 elections and worked with us in the Senate for the next six years, that I saw her vast potential to do good for our people and country.

As a senator, she did not only make waves domestically but also internationally.

At the Senate, she authored bills – that became laws that were designed primarily to improve the quality of people’s lives, and, to provide special protection for women and children against trafficking and exploitation.

Among these laws were those that dealt with Renewable Energy; Crimes against Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes against Humanity; Cheaper Medicines; Breast Feeding; Immunization of Children; creation of offices in Local Governments for Persons with Disabilities, and, even the controversial Reproductive Health Bill, which in her words she supports with the caveat that “it does not promote or legalize abortion.”

At the international scene, the author rapidly rose from the vice presidency of the women legislator-members of the Inter Parliamentary Union that is based in Geneva, and, subsequently, as their president, all within her first term as a Philippine senator.

No mean achievement for a neophyte senator. But not at all surprising.

For as a member, then, of the IPU, I knew that she had more experience in the art of legislation than many of our foreign colleagues and was, thus, more than fully qualified not only to head the group of women parliamentarians but of IPU, itself.

It was for that reason that, without her asking for it, I suggested that she should stand for election as president of the IPU itself.

That, however, has not yet come to pass.

But whether it will become reality or it will remain a dream, I am certain that it would not diminish her concern and love for her children, her tri-sport, her country and people, and above, all, the God of the Universe in whose hands she has apparently placed her entire life.

Note, for instance, that in her book, she acknowledges that fact that “I serve at God’s pleasure. I am here because He wills it. When days are difficult, I pray that He will give me the strength to carry on.”

In that respect, she echoes Thomas More, who had famously said when he learned of King Henry VIII’s decision to execute him, “I am the King’s good servant but God’s first.”

The author, however, will be the first to admit that she is far from attaining the sainthood that was bestowed upon Thomas More. First, because she is a non-Catholic. And second, because she probably never even thought what she is doing and why would ever be compared to those of More’s.

Still, her views on life are amazing even in their earthiness.

If “I want to achieve something,” she writes, “I exercise self-discipline and am able to set aside immediate gratification, knowing there will be long-term satisfaction.”

Forgoing immediate gratification for long term satisfaction is a most rational, if not Christian, way of looking at the allures of this mundane world. Coming from a respected lady senator that lesson in her life should inspire others, especially the youth, to do likewise.

Incidentally, the author also sees “discipline is a way of life. It has to be practiced.”

In the midst of all that belief in self-achievement, however, the author sees life as “a balancing act. … Life is better when we cheer each other, when we lift each other up when we fall.”

That view – said in another way – is indelibly inscribed in the 10 commandments of the Lord: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We close this Foreword with the ringing words of the author:

“It has been an honor to serve my people” in the Senate. “It is a trust that I hold dearly.”

Thus, we are refreshed by the thought that we have a lady champion in the Senate who “will use (her) strength as an athlete, (her) training as a lawyer, and (her) heart as a mother to serve” the country well and continue “(her) fight to provide a better life for those who are marginalized.”

To get the flavor of it all, dear reader, you have to get a copy of the book and read on.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel is dubbed the “Father of the Local Government Code.” He defied the Marcos dictatorship while serving as mayor of Cagayan de Oro City, was named the first Local Governments Secretary in the post-Marcos era, later elected senator and for several years was Senate President.)